Care for Creation - final version
The editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette (paywall) asked me to write an article for the June edition on Care for Creation. I started an introductory article but I woke early one morning thinking it was just too bland. The Gazette needs to be a magazine of stimulating debate. So I started again. Here is the final version. If you'd like to read the first draft it's on the blog too it is Care for Creation draft 1,
I’m sitting at my computer at 4 am. I had already drafted the article the Editor of the Gazette asked me to write to introduce Care for Creation. But I’ve just woken up in the middle of the night thinking ‘this has to change’, the Gazette needs to be a place of provocative debate and opinion.
Here is the one part of the original article I’m keeping:
Care for creationWhy should we care for creation? As the Rev Dr Chris Wright puts it in his book, The Mission of God’s People,
"The Bible does not begin at Genesis 3 (or end at Revelation 20). You might think so when you listen to some presentations of the Bible’s message and mission. The Bible is not just about the solution to our sin problem and how to survive the day of judgement. It begins with creation and ends with a new creation."
Creation and new creation are at the core of the Biblical story - that is why we should care.
I wrote too about the Five Marks of Mission and the Lausanne Cape Town Commitment; look, just Google them.
For more of that original article go to my blog www.TheTrews.com
Back to provocation -
Revolution of RepentanceWhen it comes to climate change and ecological collapse the Church of Ireland has hardly begun to care for creation. Small steps such as encouraging people to give up plastic cotton buds for Lent or have a church picnic are a start, but they are so far behind what is required that they simply delude people into thinking everything is going to be OK - but it is not.
Society is on a broad road to destruction and we need to change direction - we need a 'Revolution of Repentance'.
Less than a year ago, 15 year old Greta Thunberg skipped school on a Friday and stood outside the parliament building in Stockholm holding a homemade sign saying skolstrejk för klimatet, ‘School Strike for Climate’.
What started as one schoolchild has grown into a worldwide movement of young people calling for revolutionary action. On the 15 March 2019, in 195 countries around the world, 1.4 million children marched to fight climate change.
Greta says, “Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money... It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few... You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
Sacrifice of CivilisationThe question needs to be asked, has our church has been complicit in this sacrifice of civilisation? Last month the Bishops’ Appeal released €20,000 to help sufferers of Hurricane Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi; meanwhile, clergy pensions have millions invested in fossil fuels. The RCB report that 2.5% of invested funds are exposed to oil and gas; this equates to €4.2m of the total €167m Clergy Pensions Fund.
In Genesis 2:15 it says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” We are failing in this duty - why? Because we have believed the lies of multinational corporations that, for years, have cast doubt on the reality of climate change and encouraged investment in a fossil-fuelled economy to maximise capital gain.
The fossil fuel corporations sold us doubt whilst they trade in devastation. They have led us down the road of destruction and we need to stop, wake up and turn around - we need to repent.
Greta Thunberg has inspired thousands of young people around the world to protest, including in Ireland. In fact, in Dublin the weekly school #ClimateStrike has been happening outside Leinster House for 6 months. These young people are crying out for people to care, to care for the planet, to care for justice and to care for their future.
How has the Church of Ireland responded to the #ClimateStrike young people? Silence, nothing. We are failing our children's future. It's no wonder that young people feel the church has little to say to them, they think we do not care.
Leaders that careThankfully, one of the world's most famous naturalists, David Attenborough, has shown leadership. He must surely be the closest thing that the secular sphere has to a Pope. He said about climate change, "If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon." Commenting on the fact that 50% of all the world's wildlife has gone in the last 50 years he said, “I find it hard to exaggerate the peril. This is the new extinction and we are half way through it. We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it the worse it is going to get.”
Christian leaders have an ancient message that speaks into today's politic - we need to turn around, change direction and, as a society, we need to repent. We need a repentance narrative.
Next time you see your Bishop ask them, “Do you really care about creation?”. Then ask, “Which bishop leads on environmental issues?”. Encourage them to speak out against fossil fuel investments, ecological destruction and to call for repentance by the church and by society at large.
So what changes should the Church of Ireland make?
Net Zero ChurchThe next ten years are critical for the survival of civilisation. The world needs to reduce its carbon emissions in half over the next decade if we are to keep global warming below the dangerous threshold of 1.5 degrees heating. The question for all of us is, do we really care for creation, do we care enough to act? Romans 8:19 says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” It is time for us to show we care.
Our church can set a leading example, this is what we need to do:
The Church of Ireland can declare a Climate Emergency and become a Net Zero Church - by setting a target of net zero emissions by 2030.
This means that over the next decade we must radically reduce our carbon emissions and invest more in natural carbon capture (growing trees and restoring peatland) to catch the carbon that we cannot cut out. We should do the following:
- End investments in fossil fuel companies now and increase investment in clean energy and ecosystem regeneration.
- Launch a scheme to help insulate and draft-proof clergy homes.
- Replace the locomotory allowance for petrol and diesel vehicles with an allowance for electric cars - with the aim of clergy and staff having no fossil fuelled vehicles by 2030.
- Require parishes to report their energy usage to the RCB annually, measure the carbon footprint and invest in ecosystem services to offset the emissions.
- Promote organic farming on Church of Ireland owned farmland.
- Promote healthier eating as part of a Christian lifestyle - increase fruit and vegetables and reduce meat consumption.
- Continue to engage in the political sphere through citizens' assemblies and public forums calling for radical change.
We stand at a critical point in human history. When a church understands that mission includes care for creation then its leaders can speak into the climate and ecological crisis to call for a revolution of repentance and an end to the sacrifice of civilisation.
When we show we care for creation, then we can connect to a young generation calling for change. But to do this we need to repent of investing in fossil fuels. And then, let us lead the change that our children are calling for, call a Climate Emergency and commit to become a Net Zero Church.